Last year, the Bachelor’s degree programme Global Responsibility and Leadership was named the best Bachelor’s degree programme in the Netherlands. What makes this programme so special? One of its top components is the Living Labs.
Earlier this academic year, the Dutch Higher Education Guide (Keuzegids) 2023 selected the Bachelor’s programme Global Responsibility and Leadership (GRL) as the best Bachelor’s degree programme in the Netherlands. A unique feature of this degree programme is the Living Lab projects. During one semester, students work together in a team on a project. At least one Sustainable Development Goal is tackled as part of these projects, and it offers students a chance to work together with external parties, gain practical skills in the workplace, and come up with practical/hands-on solutions.
Under the slogan ‘Explore local solutions to global challenges’, the degree programme offers a practical view on a societally relevant issue that is connected to at least one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). ‘The Living Labs are an opportunity for students to work together with external parties, gain practical skills in the workplace, and do academic research at the same time’, says Rowan-Niels Spinder, Living Labs coordinator.
During one semester, students work together with an external party that proposes a project in consultation with the supervisors. The students can also contribute to the setup of the project based on their own skills and capacities. After that, the students, a researcher, and someone from the organization that proposed the project develop new ideas to solve the issue. ‘That way, they work as a team on both an academic research report and on ideas that the external party can apply in practice’, Spinder explains.
In the previous academic year 2021-2022, there were 24 projects, and this academic year there are 23 projects. One of the previous projects looked at the accessibility of virtual reality (VR) for older adults in medical rehabilitation. Students Stella Schröter and Annemieke Visser worked together with the Medical Center Leeuwarden (MCL) and 8D Games. ‘We conducted research into how we could make one of the games that 8D Games is currently developing as easy as possible for the elderly’, explain Schröter and Visser. The game in question is a puzzle in the form of a virtual reality game that aims to help elderly people in their rehabilitation process after their stay in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
For their research, Schröter and Visser held interviews with older adults to gain insight into their needs when it comes to using technology and VR. In addition, they interviewed medical staff to better understand their role in promoting the use of VR. Based on the results, they recommended the MCL to stimulate medical staff to use VR, since lack of motivation in both the person explaining how the VR device works and in the older adult was an important outcome of the study. Results showed that other barriers included digital literacy and affordability. 8D Games has now received Schröter and Visser’s recommendations and will adjust the game.
Generally speaking, the students saw the experience they gained in the Living Lab project as very positive. ‘We were given a glimpse of how these organizations work and how we can provide useful information with our research.’ Schröter and Visser also appreciated the collaboration with the interviewees because they came into contact with people from an age group they don’t often encounter. ‘I have learned a lot during this project, which is a useful experience for the future’, Visser concludes.
Another Living Labs project was the creation of the board game ‘Crossroads’. For this project, students Daria, Mirjam, and Esthy worked together with Amnesty International. The goal of the game is to bring attention to the intersectional position of LGBTQI+ refugees in the Netherlands and to reduce prejudices and discrimination in a simple and fun way. The board game is already in use in psychology lectures, and Amnesty International will translate the game into Dutch so that it can also be used in schools.
The Higher Education Guide assesses and describes all Bachelor’s degree programmes that are offered by universities in the Netherlands based on student reviews. Since its launch in 2018, the GRL degree programme has received the ‘Top Degree Programme’ quality label every year. This year, with a total score of 97 points, the programme received the highest score of all Bachelor’s degree programmes in the Netherlands.
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